SRX came to bat on Saturday night (June 25) at South Boston Speedway. The racing series, in just its second season, needed at least a line drive after an opening at Five Flags Speedway last week that failed to attract a million TV viewers on primetime network television.
We don’t have those week two ratings yet. But after a wild weekend of on-track competition, SRX responded with something even better: an out-of-the-park home run.
Before reading, take note that I myself have purposefully not seen last night’s CBS broadcast outside of what was said during the Tony Stewart interview between the heats and the feature race. That’s because I was busy covering the event from the press box and infield of this .4-mile gem of a track in southeastern Virginia.
Honestly, if you have the chance to go to an SRX race, take it. That was absolutely the most fun I’ve ever had at a racetrack.
The first thing that comes to mind, particularly as a media member, is access. The ability I had to go virtually anywhere, at any time, was ridiculous compared to any other series. Getting very good video content with drivers and really everybody involved was an absolute breeze.
There’s always this weird misconception people have about SRX that it’s supposed to be this super serious race series. I think that’s misguided. For me, it’s that these are drivers from your childhood going up against each other, with a local driver and a few surprises thrown in, in a fun little exhibition for six weeks. It’s a love letter to short track racing, one that mixes in up-and-coming drivers like Hailie Deegan or Ernie Francis Jr. with a legend like Ken Schrader.
Each week, those young drivers have a shot to make a name for themselves. And if they don’t? The fun turns to finding excuse after excuse to dunk on Paul Tracy for six straight weeks.
OK, Tracy hasn’t even been that bad this year. But it really seemed like the obvious ending to Heat 2 Saturday night – Ryan Newman dumping Tracy for the lead while Tracy’s eternal enemy Helio Castroneves slipped under both to make the decisive lead change – was too much for Tracy to take. Before being taken out relatively early in the main event, Tracy looked like he was backing up quite a bit every green flag run to try and be deliberately lapped so that he could wreck somebody.
If Tracy was trying to crash Castroneves, he’s only going to get one more shot at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in a couple of weeks. With Castroneves being pulled from Stafford Speedway next week due to a scheduling conflict, one of the big questions on Saturday was who was going to be the 12th driver at Stafford? SRX CEO Don Hawk mentioned in the driver’s meeting at 4:30 p.m. that he did not have a final decision yet, a few hours before finally locking in on somebody: Justin Marks.
If SRX had a road course race, Marks would be an easy pick as both a former NASCAR Xfinity Series winner at Mid-Ohio and a multi-time class winner in sports car competition. His career highlight was winning in the GT class in the 2009 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. On an oval, Marks has been… well, not very good throughout his career. Just ask the man himself.
Marks’ status as a co-owner and really the go-to guy of Trackhouse Racing makes this very interesting relative to Castroneves and that Daytona 500 ride Hawk promised him. Trackhouse would obviously seem to be a leading candidate to field a car for the Brazilian, considering they already have a third part-time car that is designed around crossover stars getting a chance at NASCAR,
Is this a deal where Marks gets the SRX seat in exchange for Castroneves becoming a Project 91 driver? It wouldn’t be shocking to me if the two were related in some way.
In other news, after the race, winner Stewart still seemed pretty grumpy even in victory, saying that he would have some conversations with the IndyCar drivers because their driving wasn’t sustainable for the series. That’s weird, considering it was Michael Waltrip who went after Ryan Hunter-Reay under caution, and it was Tony himself who allegedly went after Ernie Francis Jr. in a very public spat after the Heat 2 intermission.
This race at SoBo was exactly what the series needed to add some spice to this season and get people talking. Did they tear up some race cars? Absolutely. But there’s still four spares sitting right there ready to go, cars that weren’t used at all this week outside of practice. Week 3 might suck from a repair standpoint, but it’s going to pay off in the long run… especially with Matt Kenseth looming large, ready to join the roster during the SRX stretch run.
Some other things noticed this weekend at SoBo…
- Bobby Labonte does look noticeably older from the last time I saw him at a racetrack years ago. But of all the drivers on the grid, he seemed to still have the most energy and enthusiasm. At one point, he ran down the pit lane after practice, remaining outside in very humid conditions after the driver’s meeting and the lone practice session. His conditioning makes him seem 28 rather than 58.
- I’m surprised they even bothered with a late model race before the SRX event. Only about a dozen cars actually showed up at SoBo and the race started with a very strict hour time limit. Maybe you don’t need a support series at all for these legendary drivers?
- SRX should absolutely keep a race in the Virginia-North Carolina area next year. This crowd was electric and there were so many old school race fans lining up to attend to see these legends. I’ll be the first to advocate fully for Dominion Raceway a little further north up in Fredericksburg, Va.
- Watch out for Schrader in a few weeks at I-55 Raceway. He stepped into Tony Kanaan’s car at the end of practice and posted some very competitive lap times with a car not set up for him. He’s going to have just about every advantage on the rest of the competition in that race except for age.
- It was cool seeing Peyton Sellers, a guy I met at Dominion a couple of weeks ago, hobnobbing with the likes of Stewart and Castroneves on Saturday. Don’t know what happened to him and why the car was so slow in the main event, but that moment where he was introduced as the local ringer in driver introductions was absolutely electric.
- Michael Waltrip has a bar at SoBo with quite a dad joke of a name: Track Bar. After his dust-up with RHR, though, it took him a bit of time to head out to it for a planned appearance after the race. I’m shocked he wasn’t there as soon as the track gates opened singing a ballad with how badly his night went. Next to the bar, by the way, is a very cool souvenir store with just about every diecast known to mankind on sale.
- That bologna burger has a very suspicious amount of green peppers, but damn if it didn’t live up to its reputation.
Until next week…
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).
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